Baby Steps To Reducing Codependency
Codependency issues are much more widespread than you may think. They’re very easy for people to hide—especially serial monogamists or people who always live with several roommates. We don’t know how these individuals would react to being alone because they never are. But, often that was a calculated choice on their part because they know they’re codependent. Being codependent is far more damaging to our lives than we realize, though. If you’re codependent, then you’re not a free agent—you never get to make a decision based solely on what you want or what’s best for you. Every decision you make is made with the desire to impress, satisfy, or at least appease other people—all so they’ll stick around. Literally, like, around four or five feet away from you. When you can get rid of your codependency issues, you’re free. You’re independent, and you get your life back. Here are baby steps to reducing codependency.
Tell people you’re working on it
First, tell those who are close to you that you’re working on this. It’s important that they know, so that they don’t accidentally enable you and so that they can support you in this goal. Next time you ask a friend to go with you to get your hair cut, she’ll say, “I think it’s best you do that alone.”
Especially tell codependent friends
If you are codependent, then you likely have friends who are codependent, too. You enable one another. You may need to distance yourself from them for now, in the same way a recovering alcoholic can’t hang out with drinkers for a while.
Abandon your phone during errands
Challenge yourself to leave your phone at home during errands. Don’t text friends minute-by-minute updates at the pharmacy or call someone on speakerphone for every ten-minute drive. Just be present in the activities. And yes, if you don’t tell anyone about them, the activities still happened.
Go to a meal alone
This can be a scary one for codependent individuals but, try going out for a meal by yourself. You can get a table for one, or if that’s too big of a leap, you can sit at the bar. Stop thinking that people are judging you. People are too self-involved for that. Enjoy the food. Enjoy the drink. People watch. It won’t kill you.
Go to the movies alone
Going to the movies alone is seriously awesome. If you can get over the hump of doing it the first time, you may never want another movie companion again. You get to choose the movie you want to see, without worrying about anyone else’s desires or opinions. You get to spread snacks out on the surrounding seats. You can get there super early for the previews.
Take a class where you’ll know nobody
Sign up for a class where you won’t know anybody and don’t ask a friend to sign up with you. Just go, as a solo student, to a class where you can learn about something you’ve been wanting to learn about. The empowering feeling of educating yourself will be stronger than the fear of going alone.
Go on a small road trip alone
Just a little one. You can drive to visit a friend who lives 90 miles away, on your own. You don’t need a companion. You don’t need to call someone on the drive. It’s a short enough trip that you don’t even need to make any stops. Slowly but surely, you’ll build up to longer road trips—solo.
Take up a creative hobby
Take up a creative hobby like painting, writing, or sculpting. You really need to be alone to do a good job and focus on these things. When you see yourself improving, you’ll crave more alone time to do these things.
Eliminate people you don’t love
Be real with yourself. There are probably some friends you’re due to get rid of. You only keep them around to ensure that you always have someone to hang out with. Make a rule to only spend time with people who lift you up, empower you, and care about you deeply. The list will become small, quickly, but that’s a good thing. Go for quality not quantity in friendships.
Do things on your schedule
Spend a day doing things on just your schedule. Don’t wait to eat until a friend can meet you—eat when you’re hungry. Don’t wait to go to the gym until a buddy can join you—go when it’s convenient for you. You may just learn to love being a bit selfish with your time.
Try this mental exercise
Try this scary but important mental exercise: really visualize what would happen if you were alone for…a few days or…a whole week. You spoke to nobody. What’s the worst that would happen? The reality is that it wouldn’t kill you. So many codependency habits rely on the idea that being alone would kill us. It’s important to really face the fact that that simply isn’t true.
If you can manage it financially, consider living alone. I have several codependent friends who have said that living alone has been the most effective change towards reducing codependency.
See alone time as a gift
Change the way you look at alone time. It isn’t a void—it isn’t scary or empty. It’s a time you get to recharge, so that you can bring your best self to social interactions.
Have some set plans
It can ease your anxiety to be a good planner. Make set plans for your week, but space them out, leaving time for alone time. Take that alone time, with the knowledge that companionship is around the corner.
Focus on your strengths
Codependency often comes from our need for affirmation. When we don’t have that inside, we look outside for it. So consider meditating or journaling daily on your strengths, and learn that you don’t need outsiders to show you those.